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Minorities in Turkey facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Ethnolinguistic map of Turkey
Ethnic Groups of Turkey.
Ethnic groups in Turkey (World Factbook)
Ethnic groups Percent
Turks (a.k.a. Anatolian Turks)

Minorities in Turkey form a substantial part of the country's population, with at least an estimated 30% of the populace belonging to an ethnic minority. While the Republic of Turkey, following the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, recognizes Armenians, Greeks and Jews as ethnic minorities, this legal status is not granted to Muslim minorities, such as the Kurds, which constitute the largest minority by a wide margin (13–18%), nor any of the other minorities in the country. The amount of ethnic minorities is suspected to be underestimated by the Turkish government. Ethnic Albanians, Pontic Greeks, Kurds, Arabs, Bosniaks, Circassians and Chechen people are usually considered Turkish under ethnic Turkish law (Ethnic Turkish Law).

Many of the minorities (including the Albanians, Bosnians, Crimean Tatars, and various peoples from the Caucasus, as well as some of the Turks themselves) are descendants of Muslims (muhajirs) who were expelled from the lands lost by the shrinking Ottoman Empire, but they have assimilated into and intermarried with the majority Turkish population and have adopted the Turkish language and way of life, though this does not make them ethnic Turks.

Although many minorities have no official recognition, state-run TRT television and radio broadcasts minority language programs and elementary schools offer minority language classes.


Distribution of nationalities in Anatolia
Ottoman official statistics, 1910
Sanjak Turks Greeks Armenians Jews Others Total
Istanbul (Asiatic shore) 135,681 70,906 30,465 5,120 16,812 258,984
İzmit 184,960 78,564 50,935 2,180 1,435 318,074
Aidin (İzmir) 974,225 629,002 17,247 24,361 58,076 1,702,911
Bursa 1,346,387 274,530 87,932 2,788 6,125 1,717,762
Konya 1,143,335 85,320 9,426 720 15,356 1,254,157
Ankara 991,666 54,280 101,388 901 12,329 1,160,564
Trebizond 1,047,889 351,104 45,094 - - 1,444,087
Sivas 933,572 98,270 165,741 - - 1,197,583
Kastamon 1,086,420 18,160 3,061 - 1,980 1,109,621
Adana 212,454 88,010 81,250 107,240 488,954
Bigha 136,000 29,000 2,000 3,300 98 170,398
Total 8,192,589 1,777,146 594,539 39,370 219,451 10,823,095
Percentage 75.7% 16.42% 5.50% 0.36% 2.03%  
Ecumenical Patriarchate statistics, 1912
Total 7,048,662 1,788,582 608,707 37,523 218,102 9,695,506
Percentage 72.7% 18.45% 6.28% 0.39% 2.25%  
Distribution of nationalities in East Thrace
Ottoman official statistics, 1910
Sanjak Turks Greeks Bulgarians Others Total
Edirne 128,000 113,500 31,500 14,700 287,700
Kirk Kilisse 53,000 77,000 28,500 1,150 159,650
Tekirdağ 63,500 56,000 3,000 21,800 144,300
Gallipoli 31,500 70,500 2,000 3,200 107,200
Çatalca 18,000 48,500 - 2,340 68,840
Constantinople 450,000 260,000 6,000 130,000 846,000
Total 744,000 625,500 71,000 173,190 1,613,690
Percentage 46.11% 38.76% 4.40% 10.74%  
Ecumenical Patriarchate statistics, 1912
Total 604,500 655,600 71,800 337,600 1,669,500
Percentage 36.20% 39.27% 4.30% 20.22%  
Muslim and non-Muslim population in Turkey, 1914-2005 (in thousands)
Year 1914 1927 1945 1965 1990 2005
Muslims 12,941 13,290 18,511 31,139 56,860 71,997
Greeks 1,549 110 104 76 8 3
Armenians 1,204 77 60 64 67 50
Jews 128 82 77 38 29 27
Others 176 71 38 74 50 45
Total 15,997 13,630 18,790 31,391 57,005 72,120
Percentage non-Muslim 19.1 2.5 1.5 0.8 0.3 0.2


Number Ethnic Minimum Estimates Maximum Estimates Further information
1  Albania 1,500,000 5,000,000 Albanians in Turkey / Albanians
2  Bosnia and Herzegovina 100,000 2,000,000 Bosniaks in Turkey / Bosnians
3  Bulgaria 350,000 750,000 Bulgarians in Turkey / Pomaks in Turkey / Bulgarians
4  Greece 2,000 30,000 Greeks in Turkey / Pontic Greeks / Caucasus Greeks / Greeks
5  Serbia 15,000 60,000 Serbs in Turkey / Serbs
1 Total 2,000,000 7,900,000 Balkan peoples
1  Abkhazia 600,000 600,000 Abkhazians / Abkhaz language
2  Armenia 150,000 5,000,000 Armenians in Turkey / Hidden Armenians / Armenians
3  Chechnya 100,000 100,000 Chechens in Turkey / Chechens
4 Template:Country data Circassia 150,000 7,000,000 Circassians in Turkey / Circassians
5  Georgia 100,000 1,500,000 Georgians in Turkey / Georgians
6 Template:Country data Lazica 45,000 2,250,000 Laz people in Turkey / Laz people
2 Total 1,100,000 16,450,000 Peoples of the Caucasus in Turkey / Peoples of the Caucasus
Central Asia
1  Kazakhstan 10,000 10,000 Kazakhs
2  Kyrgyzstan 1,600 1,600 Kyrgyzs
3  Tajikistan 1,000 1,000 Tajiks
4  Turkmenistan 1,500 1,500 Turkmens
5  East Turkestan 50,000 50,000 Uyghurs
6  Uzbekistan 45,000 45,000 Uzbeks
3 Total 120,000 120,000 Central Asian peoples
Turkic peoples
1  Azerbaijan 530,000 800,000 Azerbaijanis in Turkey / Azerbaijanis
2  Crimea 150,000 6,000,000 Crimean Tatars in Turkey / Crimean Tatars
3  Karachay-Cherkessia 20,000 20,000 Karachays
4  Turkey 40,000 75,000 Meskhetian Turks
4 Total 740,000 6,895,000 Turkic peoples
Iranian peoples
1  Afghanistan 25,000 50,000 Afghans in Turkey / Afghans
2  Iran 500,000 650,000 Iranian diaspora / Persians
3  Kurdistan 13,000,000 23,000,000 Kurds in Turkey / Kurdish population / Turkish Kurdistan / Kurds
4  Kurdistan 1,000,000 3,000,000 Zaza Kurds / Zaza nationalism / Zaza language
5  North Ossetia-Alania 50,000 50,000 Ossetians in Turkey / Ossetians
5 Total 14,600,000 26,750,000 Iranian peoples
European peoples
1  Netherlands 15,000 15,000 Dutch people
2  Germany 50,000 50,000 Germans in Turkey / Germans
3  Great Britain 35,000 35,000 Britons in Turkey / British people
4  Italy 35,000 35,000 Levantines in Turkey / Levantines (Latin Catholics)
5  Poland 4,000 4,000 Polish diaspora / Poles
6  Russia 50,000 50,000 Russians in Turkey / Russians
6 Total 190,000 190,000 European peoples
Other Minorities
1  African Union 100,000 100,000 Afro Turks / African diaspora / Africans
2  Arab League 1,500,000 5,000,000 Arabs in Turkey / Iraqis in Turkey / Arabs
3  Assyria 15,000 65,000 Assyrians in Turkey / Assyrian genocide / Assyrians
4  Israel 15,000 18,000 Jews in Turkey / Antisemitism in Turkey / Jews
5 Template:Country data Romani 700,000 5,000,000 Romani people in Turkey / Romani people
7 Total 2,330,000 10,200,000 Other Minorities in Turkey
37 Group Grand Total 21,080,000 68,505,000 Minorities in Turkey

Ethnic minorities

Balkan peoples


A 2008 report from the Turkish National Security Council (MGK) estimated that approximately 1.3 million people of Albanian ancestry live in Turkey, and more than 500,000 recognizing their ancestry, language and culture. There are other estimates however that place the number of people in Turkey with Albanian ancestry and or background upward to 5 million.

However, these assumptions of the Turkish government are rejected by scholars who explain they are without any basis.


Today, the existence of Bosniaks in the country is evident everywhere. In cities like İstanbul, Eskişehir, Ankara, İzmir, or Adana, one can easily find districts, streets, shops or restaurants with names such as Bosna, Yenibosna, Mostar, or Novi Pazar. However, it is extremely difficult to estimate how many Bosniaks live in this country. Some Bosnian researchers believe that the number of Bosniaks in Turkey is about four million. Turkish politicians are aware of the large number of Bosniaks living in Turkey, and, referencing this in 2010, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said: "There are more Bosniaks living in Turkey than in Bosnia."


People identifying as Bulgarian include a large number of the Pomak and a small number of Orthodox Bulgarians. According to Ethnologue at present 300,000 Pomaks in European Turkey speak Bulgarian as their mother tongue. It is very hard to estimate the number of Pomaks along with the Turkified Pomaks who live in Turkey, as they have blended into the Turkish society and have been often linguistically and culturally dissimilated. According to Milliyet and Turkish Daily News reports, the number of Pomaks along with the Turkified Pomaks in the country is about 600,000. According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bulgarian Orthodox Christian community in Turkey stands at 500 members.


The Pontus region

The Greeks constitute a population of Greek and Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox Christians who mostly live in Istanbul, including its district Princes' Islands, as well as on the two islands of the western entrance to the Dardanelles: Imbros and Tenedos (Turkish: Gökçeada and Bozcaada). Some Greek-speaking Byzantine Christians have been assimilated over the course of the last one thousand years.

They are the remnants of the estimated 200,000 Greeks who were permitted under the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne to remain in Turkey following the 1923 population exchange, which involved the forcible resettlement of approximately 1.5 million Greeks from Anatolia and East Thrace and of half a million Turks from all of Greece except for Western Thrace. After years of persecution (e.g. the Varlık Vergisi and the Istanbul Pogrom), emigration of ethnic Greeks from the Istanbul region greatly accelerated, reducing the 119,822 -strong Greek minority before the attack to about 7,000 by 1978. The 2008 figures released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry places the current number of Turkish citizens of Greek descent at the 3,000–4,000 mark. According to Milliyet there are 15,000 Greeks in Turkey, while according to Human Rights Watch the Greek population in Turkey was estimated at 2,500 in 2006. According to the same source, the Greek population in Turkey was collapsing as the community was by then far too small to sustain itself demographically, due to emigration, much higher death rates than birth rates and continuing discrimination. In recent years however, most notably since the economic crisis in Greece, the trend has reversed. A few hundred to over a thousand Greeks now migrate to Turkey yearly for employment or educational purposes.

Christian Greeks were forced to migrate. Muslim Greeks live in Turkey today. They live in cities of Trabzon and Rize. Pontic Greeks have Greek ancestry and speak the Pontic Greek dialect, a distinct form of the standard Greek language which, due to the remoteness of Pontus, has undergone linguistic evolution distinct from that of the rest of the Greek world. The Pontic Greeks had a continuous presence in the region of Pontus (modern-day northeastern Turkey), Georgia, and Eastern Anatolia from at least 700 BC until 1922.

Since 1924, the status of the Greek minority in Turkey has been ambiguous. Beginning in the 1930s, the government instituted repressive policies forcing many Greeks to emigrate. Examples are the labour battalions drafted among non-Muslims during World War II as well as the Fortune Tax levied mostly on non-Muslims during the same period. These resulted in financial ruination and death for many Greeks. The exodus was given greater impetus with the Istanbul Pogrom of September 1955 which led to thousands of Greeks fleeing the city, eventually reducing the Christian Greek population to about 7,000 by 1978 and to about 2,500 by 2006 before beginning to increase again after 2008.


In the 1965 Census 6,599 Turkish citizen spoke Serbian as a first language and another 58,802 spoke Serbian as a second language.

Caucasus peoples


Abkhazians or the Abkhaz (Abkhaz: Аҧсуа, Apswa; Georgian: აფხაზები) are a Northwest Caucasian ethnic group, mainly living in Abkhazia, a disputed region on the Black Sea coast. A large Abkhaz diaspora population resides in Turkey, the origins of which lie in the population movements from the Caucasus in the late 19th century. Many Abkhaz also live in other parts of the former Soviet Union, particularly in Russia and Ukraine.


Armenians are indigenous to the Armenian Highlands which corresponds to the eastern half of modern-day Turkey, the Republic of Armenia, southern Georgia, western Azerbaijan, and northwestern Iran. Although in 1880 the word Armenia was banned from being used in the press, schoolbooks, and governmental establishments in Turkey and was subsequently replaced with words like eastern Anatolia or northern Kurdistan, Armenians had maintained much of their culture and heritage. The Armenian population of Turkey was greatly reduced following the Hamidian massacres and especially the Armenian Genocide, when over one and half million Armenians, virtually the entire Armenian population of Anatolia, were massacred. Prior to the Genocide in 1914, the Armenian population of Turkey numbered at about 1,914,620. The Armenian community of the Ottoman Empire before the Armenian genocide had an estimated 2,300 churches and 700 schools (with 82,000 students). This figure excludes churches and schools belonging to the Protestant and Catholic Armenian parishes since only those churches and schools under the jurisdiction of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate and the Apostolic Church were counted. After the Armenian genocide however, it is estimated that 200,000 Armenians remained in Turkey. Today there are an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 Armenians in Turkey, not including the Hamshenis.

Armenians under the Turkish Republican era were subjected to many policies which attempted to abolish Armenian cultural heritage such as the Turkification of last names, Islamification, geographical name changes, confiscation of properties, change of animal names, change of the names of Armenian historical figures (i.e. the name of the prominent Balyan family were concealed under an identity of a superficial Italian family called Baliani), and the change and distortion of Armenian historical events.

Armenians today are mostly concentrated around Istanbul. The Armenians support their own newspapers and schools. The majority belong to the Armenian Apostolic faith, with much smaller numbers of Armenian Catholics and Armenian Evangelicals. The community currently functions 34, 18 schools, and 2 hospitals.

Chechens and Ingush

Chechens in Turkey are Turkish citizens of Chechen descent and Chechen refugees living in Turkey. Chechens and Ingush live in the provinces of Istanbul, Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, Sivas, and Muş.


According to Milliyet, there are approximately 2.5 million Circassians in Turkey. However such assumptions have no basis. According to scholars and EU there are three to five million Circassians in Turkey. The closely related ethnic groups Abazins (10,000) and Abkhazians (39,000) are also counted as Circassians. The Circassians are a Caucasian immigrant people; the vast majority of them have been assimilated and only 20% still speak Circassian. In Turkey, they are usually Sunni (Hanafi) Muslim.

Dagestani peoples

Various ethnic groups from Dagestan are present in Turkey. Dagestani peoples live in villages in the provinces like Balıkesir, Tokat and also scattered in other parts of the country. A majority among them are Nogais; Lezgins and Avars are other significant ethnic groups. Kumyks are also present.


Laz and georgian people
Location of Laz and Georgian people today

There are approximately 1 million people of Georgian ancestry in Turkey according to the newspaper Milliyet. Georgians in Turkey are mostly Sunni Muslims of Hanafi madh'hab. Immigrant Georgians are called "Chveneburi", but autochthonous Muslim Georgians use this term as well. Muslim Georgians form the majority in parts of Artvin Province east of the Çoruh River. Immigrant Muslim groups of Georgian origin, found scattered in Turkey, are known as Chveneburi. The smallest Georgian group are Catholics living in Istanbul.


Most Laz people today live in Turkey, but the Laz minority group has no official status in Turkey. Their number today is estimated at 2,250,000. The Laz are Sunni Muslims. Only a minority are bilingual in Turkish and their native Laz language which belongs to the South Caucasian group. The number of the Laz speakers is decreasing, and is now limited chiefly to the Rize and Artvin areas. The historical term Lazistan — formerly referring to a narrow tract of land along the Black Sea inhabited by the Laz as well as by several other ethnic groups — has been banned from official use and replaced with Doğu Karadeniz (which also includes Trabzon). During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, the Muslim population of Russia near the war zones was subjected to ethnic cleansing; many Lazes living in Batum fled to the Ottoman Empire, settling along the southern Black Sea coast to the east of Samsun.

Central Asian peoples

Turkey received refugees from among the Pakistan-based Kazakhs, Turkmen, Kirghiz, and Uzbeks numbering 3,800 originally from Afghanistan during the Soviet–Afghan War. Kayseri, Van, Amasva, Cicekdag, Gaziantep, Tokat, Urfa, and Serinvol received via Adana the Pakistan-based Kazakh, Turkmen, Kirghiz, and Uzbek refugees numbering 3,800 with UNHCR assistance.


They are about 30,000 Kazakh people living in Zeytinburnu-Istanbul. It is known that there are Kazakh people in other parts of Turkey, for instance Manisa, Konya. In 1969 and 1954 Kazakhs migrated into Anatolia's Salihli, Develi and Altay regions. Turkey became home to refugee Kazakhs. The Kazakh Turks Foundation (Kazak Türkleri Vakfı) is an organization of Kazakhs in Turkey. Kazakhs in Turkey came via Pakistan and Afghanistan. Kazak Kültür Derneği (Kazakh Culture Associration) is a Kazakh diaspora organization in Turkey.


Turkey's Lake Van area is the home of Kyrgyz refugees from Afghanistan. Turkey became a destination for Kyrgyz refugees due to the Soviet–Afghan War from Afghanistan's Wakhan area 500 remained and did not go to Turkey with the others. Friendship and Culture Society of Kyrgyzstan (Кыргызстан Достук жана Маданият Коому) (Kırgızistan Kültür ve Dostluk Derneği Resmi Sitesi) is a Kyrgyz diaspora organization in Turkey.

They were airlifted in 1982 from Pakistan where they had sought refugee after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 1979. Their original home was at the eastern end of the Wakhan Corridor, in the Pamirs, bordering on China. It is not known how many Kyrgyz still live in Van and how many have moved on to other parts of Turkey.


There are only 1,500 ethnic Turkmen in Turkey.


There are only 1,000 ethnic Tajik in Turkey.


See also: Uzbeks#Uzbeks in Saudi Arabia, Uzbeks in Pakistan, and Soviet Central Asia#Exiles

Turkey is home to 45,000 Uzbeks. In the 1800s Konya's north Bogrudelik was settled by Tatar Bukharlyks. In 1981 Afghan Turkestan refugees in Pakistan moved to Turkey to join the existing Kayseri, Izmir, Ankara, and Zeytinburnu based communities. Turkish based Uzbeks have established links to Saudi-based Uzbeks.


Turkey is home to 50,000 Uyghurs. A community of Uyghurs live in Turkey. Kayseri received Uyghurs numbering close to 360 via the UNHCR in 1966–1967 from Pakistan. The Turkey-based Uyghur diaspora had a number of family members among Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan based Uyghurs who stayed behind while the UNHCR and government of Turkey had Kayseri receive 75 Uyghurs in 1967 and 230 Uyghurs in 1965 and a number in 1964 under Alptekin and Bughra. We never call each other Uyghur, but only refer to ourselves as East Turkestanis, or Kashgarlik, Turpanli, or even Turks.- according to some Uyghurs born in Turkey.

A community of Uyghurs live in Istanbul. Tuzla and Zeytinburnu mosques are used by the Uyghurs in Istanbul. Piety is a characteristic of among Turkey dwelling Uyghurs.

Istanbul's districts of Küçükçekmece, Sefaköy and Zeytinburnu are home to Uyghur communities. Eastern Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association is located in Turkey. Abdurahmon Abdulahad of the East Turkistan Education Association supported Uzbek Islamists who protested against Russia and Islam Karimov's Uzbekistan government. Uyghurs are employed in Küçükçekmece and Zeytinburnu restaurants. East Turkistan Immigration Association, East Turkistan Culture and Solidarity Association, and Eastern Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association are Uyghur diaspora organizations in Turkey.

Turkic peoples


Azerbijani In Turkey
Traditional settlement areas

It is hard to determine how many ethnic Azeris currently reside in Turkey because ethnicity is a rather fluid concept in this country. and According to the Looklex Encyclopaedia, Azerbaijani people make up 800,000 of Turkey's population. Up to 300,000 of Azeris who reside in Turkey are citizens of Azerbaijan. In the Eastern Anatolia Region, Azeris are sometimes referred to as acem (see Ajam) or tat. They currently are the largest ethnic group in the city of Iğdır and second largest ethnic group in Kars.


Karachay people live in villages concentrated in Konya and Eskişehir.

Meskhetian Turks

There is a community of Meskhetian Turks (Ahiska Turks) in Turkey.

Iranian peoples


Groups of nomadic and semi-nomadic itinerants found mainly in central and western Anatolia. They speak an argot of their own and follow the Alevi faith.


Afghans are one of the largest irregular migrant groups in Turkey. From the period 2003–2007, the number of Afghans apprehended were significant, with statistics almost doubling during the last year. Most had fled the War in Afghanistan. In 2005, refugees from Afghanistan numbered 300 and made a sizeable proportion of Turkey's registered migrants. Most of them were spread out over satellite cities with Van and Ağrı being the most specific locations. In the following years, the number of Afghans entering Turkey greatly increased, second only to migrants from Iraq; in 2009, there were 16,000 people designated under the Iraq-Afghanistan category. Despite a dramatic 50 percent reduction by 2010, reports confirmed hundreds living and working in Turkey. As of January 2010, Afghans consisted one-sixth of the 26,000 remaining refugees and asylum seekers. By the end 2011, their numbers are expected to surge up to 10,000, making them the largest population and surpass other groups.


Kurdish majority Turkey-es
Map showing Kurdish majority areas within Turkey.
Kurdish population by region (KONDA 2010)
Percentage of Kurdish population in Turkey by region
Turkey total fertility rate by province 2014
Turkey Total fertility rate by province (2013). Kurdish majority provinces have a higher fertility rate than Turkish majority provinces.      4-5      3-4      2-3      1.5-2      1-1.5
Kurds of Central Anatolia
Map of Kurds of Central Anatolia
Kurdish mother & child Van 1973
Kurdish mother and child, Van, Turkey. 1973

Ethnic Kurds are the largest minority in Turkey, composing around 20% of the population according to Milliyet, 18% of the total populace or c. 14 million people according to the CIA World Factbook, and as much as 23% according to Kurdologist David McDowall. Unlike the Turks, the Kurds speak an Iranian language. There are Kurds living all over Turkey, but most live to the east and southeast of the country, from where they originate.

In the 1930s, Turkish government policy aimed to forcibly assimilate and Turkify local Kurds. Since 1984, Kurdish resistance movements included both peaceful political activities for basic civil rights for Kurds within Turkey, and violent armed rebellion for a separate Kurdish state.


Ossetians emigrated from North Ossetia since the second half of the 19th century, end of Caucasian War. Today, the majority of them live in Ankara and Istanbul. There are 24 Ossetian villages in central and eastern Anatolia. The Ossetians in Turkey are divided into three major groups, depending on their history of immigration and ensuing events: those living in Kars (Sarıkamış) and Erzurum, those in Sivas, Tokat and Yozgat and those in Muş and Bitlis.


500,000 to 650,000.


Zaza Map
Zaza-majority areas in Turkey.
Zaza DialectsMap-5
The regions where Zaza is spoken in Turkey, with the three main dialect areas: Tunceli, Palu-Bingöl, Varto and Siverek (and diasporic in Kars, Sarız, Aksaray, and Taraz).

The Zazas are a community who identifies as ethnic Kurds. Their language Zazaki is a language spoken in eastern Anatolia between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. It belongs to the northwest-Iranian group of the Iranian language branch of the Indo-European language family. The Zaza language is related to Kurdish, Persian and Balōchi. An exact indication of the number of Zaza speakers is unknown. Internal Zaza sources estimate the total number of Zaza speakers at 3 to 6 million.

European peoples


There are at least 34,000 Britons in Turkey. They consist mainly of British citizens married to Turkish spouses, British Turks who have moved back into the country, students and families of long-term expatriates employed predominately in white-collar industry.


Approximately 15,000 Dutch live in Turkey.


There are over 50,000 Germans living in Turkey, primarily Germans married to Turkish spouses, employees, retirees and long-term tourists who buy properties across the Turkish coastline, often spending most of the year in the country. In addition, many Turkish Germans have also returned and settled, and it is not uncommon to hear German being spoken on the streets of Istanbul by Turks.


Levantines continue to live in Istanbul (mostly in the districts of Galata, Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı), İzmir (mostly in the districts of Karşıyaka, Bornova and Buca), and the lesser port city Mersin where they had been influential for creating and reviving a tradition of opera. Famous people of the present-day Levantine community in Turkey include Maria Rita Epik, Franco-Levantine Caroline Giraud Koç and Italo-Levantine Giovanni Scognamillo. About 35,000 Levantines live in Turkey.


There are only 4,000 ethnic Poles in Turkey who have been assimilated into the main Turkish culture. The immigration did start during the Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Józef Bem was one of the first immigrants and Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski founded Polonezköy in 1842. Most Poles in Turkey live in Polonezköy, Istanbul.


Russians in Turkey number about 50,000 citizens. Russians began migrating to Turkey during the first half of the 1990s. Most were fleeing the economic problems prevalent after the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. During this period, many Russian immigrants intermarried and assimilated with Turkish locals, giving rise to a rapid increase in mixed marriages. There is a Russian Association of Education, Culture and Cooperation which aims to expand Russian language and culture in Turkey as well as promote the interests of the community.

Other minorities


Beginning several centuries ago, a number of Africans, usually via Zanzibar as Zanj and from places such as Niger, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kenya and Sudan, came to the Ottoman Empire settled by the Dalaman, Menderes and Gediz valleys, Manavgat, and Çukurova. African quarters of 19th-century İzmir, including Sabırtaşı, Dolapkuyu, Tamaşalık, İkiçeşmelik, and Ballıkuyu, are mentioned in contemporary records. Due to the slave trade in the Ottoman Empire that had flourished in the Balkans, the coastal town of Ulcinj in Montenegro had its own black community. As a consequence of the slave trade and privateer activity, it is told how until 1878 in Ulcinj 100 black people lived. The Ottoman Army also deployed an estimated 30,000 Black African troops and cavalrymen to its expedition in Hungary during the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18.


Arabs in Turkey
Arabs in Turkey

Arabs in Turkey number between 800,000 and 1 million, and they mostly live in provinces near the Syrian border, particularly the Hatay region, where they made up two thirds of the population in 1939. However, including recent Syrian refugees, they make up to 5.3% of the population. Most of them are Sunni Muslims. However, there is a small group of Alawis, and another one of Arab Christians (mostly in Hatay Province) in communion with the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Turkey experienced a large influx of Iraqis between the years of 1988 and 1991 due to both the Iran–Iraq War and the first Gulf war, with around 50,000 to 460,000 Iraqis entering the country.

Syrians in Turkey include migrants from Syria to Turkey, as well as their descendants. The number of Syrians in Turkey is estimated at over 3.58 million people as of April 2018, and consists mainly of refugees of the Syrian Civil War.


Assyrians were once a large ethnic minority in the Ottoman Empire, but following the early 20th century Assyrian Genocide, many were murdered, deported, or ended up emigrating. Those that remain live in small numbers in their indigenous South Eastern Turkey (although in larger numbers than other groups murdered in Armenian or Greek genocides) and Istanbul. They number around 30,000.


There have been Jewish communities in Asia Minor since at least the 5th century BC and many Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Spain came to the Ottoman Empire (including regions part of modern Turkey) in the late 15th century. Despite emigration during the 20th century, modern-day Turkey continues to have a small Jewish population of about 20,000.


The Roma in Turkey number approximately 700,000 according to Milliyet. Sulukule is the oldest Roma settlement in Europe. By different Turkish and Non-Turkish estimates the number of Romani is up to 4 or 5 million while according to a Turkish source, they are only 0.05% of Turkey's population (or roughly persons). The descendants of the Ottoman Roma today are known as Xoraxane Roma and are of the Islamic faith.

Minor foreigner


There are as many as 12,000 Australians in Turkey. Of these, the overwhelming majority are in the capital Ankara (roughly 10,000) while the remaining are in Istanbul. Australian expatriates in Turkey form one of the largest overseas Australian groups in Europe and Asia. The vast majority of Australian nationals in Turkey are Turkish Australians.


Brazilians in Turkey are one of the very small Brazilian communities outside Brazil, numbering about 275. Majority of Brazilians in Turkey works in embassies and/or consulates in Istanbul and Ankara, with a small number works in private companies in other metropolitan cities.


There are over 1,100 Canadians living in Turkey, the majority of which are based in Ankara and Istanbul according to the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) and the local Canadian embassy and consulates in the country. In recent years, the number of Canadians settling within Turkey has seen a sharp rise with the country continuing to be one of the fastest-rising destinations for Canadians heading overseas. The growing figures have been linked as a proponent for the skyrocketing ratio of Canadian tourists choosing to visit Turkey each year. In 2009, approximately 150,000 Canadians had been to Turkey, an increase from the 39,000 in 1995.


There is a small community of Chinese people in Turkey, mostly temporary expatriates. A few hundred Chinese students are enrolled in various Turkish universities. Turkey has a sizeable number of Muslim Uyghur people who hail from the Xinjiang region of China. They have come in large numbers since the early 1950s from the northwestern provinces of China, and as part of their migration to the Middle East, many chose to settle down in urban centres of Turkey. Today, they have effectively associated themselves with the local economy and can be seen practicing in various forms of trade.


There were 5,500 Filipinos in Turkey as of 2008, according to estimates by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas and the Philippine embassy in Ankara. Out of those, most are recorded as maids and "overseas workers" employed in households of diplomatic communities and elite Turkish families. Moreover, ten percent or approximately 500 Filipinos in Turkey are skilled workers and professionals working as engineers, architects, doctors and teachers. Most of the Filipinos reside in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and nearby surrounding areas.


Indians in Turkey are a small community numbering 300 and comprising roughly 100 families. Most of them work as doctors and computer engineers or employees in multinational corporations. India also has a small business presence in Turkey through representative offices of Reliance Industries, Tata Motors and Indorama.


There is a medium-sized population of Japanese people in Turkey, comprising mostly recent expatriates from Japan and their descendants born in Turkey. As of September 2010, their numbers were recorded at 1,430 by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Most Japanese living in Turkey are based in Ankara and Istanbul.


Pakistanis in Turkey refers to a small community consisting mainly of expatriates and students. Many of the Pakistani students study at Turkish universities and colleges. There are also large number of long-term and short-term economic migrants from Pakistan in Turkey who often intend to cross into the European Union. Pakistan has a permanent embassy in Ankara and a consulate general in Istanbul, which aim to serve the interests of the community throughout the country. Around 800 Pakistani students are studying in Turkey.

Religious minorities


In Turkey, Atheism is the biggest group after Islam. The percentage of atheists according to polls apparently rose from about 2% in 2012 to approximately 6% in 2016.


The house where the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh stayed in, Edirne

Turkish cities Edirne and İstanbul are in the holy places of this religion. Estimate Bahá'í population in Turkey is 10,000 (2008)


About 72,000 people.


Istanbul - Sant Antoni de Pàdua
Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Istanbul.

Christianity has a long history in Anatolia which, nowadays part of the Republic of Turkey's territory, was the birthplace of numerous Christian Apostles and Saints, such as Apostle Paul of Tarsus, Timothy, St. Nicholas of Myra, St. Polycarp of Smyrna and many others. Two out of the five centers (Patriarchates) of the ancient Pentarchy were located in present-day Turkey: Constantinople (Istanbul) and Antioch (Antakya). All of the first seven Ecumenical Councils which are recognized by both the Western and Eastern churches were held in present-day Turkey. Of these, the Nicene Creed, declared with the First Council of Nicaea (İznik) in 325, is of utmost importance and has provided the essential definitions of present-day Christianity.

Today the Christian population of Turkey estimated more than 150,000, includes an estimated 70,000 Armenian Orthodox, 35,000 Roman Catholics, 17,000 Syriac Orthodox, 8,000 Chaldean Catholic, 3,000-4,000 Greek Orthodox[1], 10,000-18,000 Antiochian Greeks and smaller numbers of Bulgarians, Georgians, and ethnic Turkish Protestants.

Orthodox Christians

Agia Triada Greek Orthodox Church, İstanbul
Aya Triada Greek Orthodox church in Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Orthodox Christianity forms a tiny minority in Turkey, comprising far less than one tenth of one percent of the entire population. The provinces of Istanbul and Hatay, which includes Antakya, are the main centres of Turkish Christianity, with comparatively dense Christian populations, though they are very small minorities. The main variant of Christianity present in Turkey is the Eastern Orthodox branch, focused mainly in the Armenian Apostolic and Syriac/Greek Orthodox Church.


Protestants comprise far less than one tenth of one percent of the population of Turkey. Even so, there is an Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey. The constitution of Turkey recognizes freedom of religion for individuals. The Armenian Protestants own three Istanbul Churches from the 19th century. On 4 November 2006, a Protestant place of worship was attacked with six Molotov cocktails. Turkish media have criticized Christian missionary activity intensely.

There is an ethnic Turkish Protestant Christian community most of them came from recent Muslim Turkish backgrounds, rather than from ethnic minorities.

Roman Catholics

Tarsus Ecclesia Sancti Pauli Apostoli
The Church of St. Paul in Tharsus

There are around 35,000 Catholics, constituting 0.05% of the population. The faithful follow the Latin, Byzantine, Armenian and Chaldean Rite. Most Latin Rite Catholics are Levantines of mainly Italian or French background, although a few are ethnic Turks (who are usually converts via marriage to Levantines or other non-Turkish Catholics). Byzantine, Armenian, and Chaldean rite Catholics are generally members of the Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian minority groups respectively. Turkey's Catholics are concentrated in Istanbul.

In February 2006, Catholic priest Andrea Santoro, an Italian missionary working in Turkey for 10 years, was shot twice at his church near the Black Sea. He had written a letter to the Pope asking him to visit Turkey. Pope Benedict XVI visited Turkey in November 2006. Relations had been rocky since Pope Benedict XVI had stated his opposition to Turkey joining the European Union. The Council of Catholic Bishops met with the Turkish prime minister in 2004 to discuss restrictions and difficulties such as property issues. More recently, Bishop Luigi Padovese, on June 6, 2010, the Vicar Apostolic of Turkey, was killed.


There have been Jewish communities in Asia Minor since at least the 5th century BC and many Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Spain were welcomed to the Ottoman Empire (including regions part of modern Turkey) in the late 15th century. Despite emigration during the 20th century, modern-day Turkey continues to have a small Jewish population. There is a small Karaite Jewish population numbering around 100. Karaite Jews are not considered Jews by the Turkish Hakhambashi.



Alevis in Turkey
Distribution of Alevi population in Turkey. Red = Anatolian Alevis (Turks, Kurds and Zazas). Dark red = Alawites (Arabs) in Southern Turkey.

The exact number of Alawites in Turkey is unknown, but there were 185 000 Alawites in 1970. As Muslims, they are not recorded separately from Sunnis in ID registration. In the 1965 census (the last Turkish census where informants were asked their mother tongue), 180,000 people in the three provinces declared their mother tongue as Arabic. However, Arabic-speaking Sunni and Christian people are also included in this figure.

Alawites traditionally speak the same dialect of Levantine Arabic with Syrian Alawites. Arabic is best preserved in rural communities and Samandağ. Younger people in Çukurova cities and (to a lesser extent) in İskenderun tend to speak Turkish. Turkish spoken by Alawites is distinguished by Alawites and non-Alawites alike with its particular accents and vocabulary. Knowledge of Arabic alphabet is confined to religious leaders and men who had worked or studied in Arab countries.


Proportion of Alevis in Turkey

Alevis are the biggest religious minority in Turkey. Nearly 15%-25% of all Turkish population is in this group. They are mainly Turk but there are significant Kurd and Zaza populations who are Alevi

Twelvers Shia

Twelver shia population of Turkey is nearly 3 million and most of them are Azeris. Half million of Ja'faris live in İstanbul.


Turkey is in the area of the Yazidi homeland, along with Syria and Iraq. The Yazidi population in Turkey was estimated at around 22.000 in 1984. Earlier figures are difficult to obtain and verify, but some estimate there were about 100.000 Yazidi in Turkey in the early years of the 20th century.

Most Yazidis left the country and went abroad in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly to Germany and other European countries where they got asylum due to the persecution as an ethnic and religious minority in Turkey. The area they resided was in the south eastern area of Turkey, an area that had/has heavy PKK fighting. Now a few hundred Yazidi are believed to be left in Turkey.

Related pages

  • Turkish nationalism
  • Racism in Turkey
  • Turkification
  • Surname Law
  • Anti-Armenian sentiment
  • Armenian Genocide
  • Greek genocide
  • Assyrian genocide
  • Dersim rebellion
  • Yörüks
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